Virginia Baseball Notes: Hoos Excited To Take On No. 7 Notre Dame In ACC Tournament Friday

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Holding a 7-5 overall record including a 2-4 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play, the Virginia baseball team looked to get back on track in its third conference series of the 2021 season. The opponent was 4-2 Notre Dame, which at the time was ranked No. 25 in the nation.

The Fighting Irish proceeded to crush the Hoos, churning out 30 runs and 42 hits while sweeping the 3-game series in Charlottesville.

“Frankly, that was our wakeup call was Notre Dame,” Virginia junior righthanded pitcher Zach Messenger said. “Us as a whole entire staff. Us as a team. As much as it was brutal getting swept at home that weekend, we needed it. Now if you look at us, how we’ve played this back end – this back two-thirds – of our conference schedule of our entire season, it’s all leading up to … [Notre Dame is] the best team in the ACC for a reason. They hit the ball really well, their pitching has been consistent all year, and they play good defense. We’re going to have to be on top of everything come Friday morning, but I think we’re ready and I think today showed that.”

The way the ACC Tournament was scheduled, Andrew Abbott (#16) was able to pitch one inning in Tuesday’s Pool Play win over Virginia Tech and will be ready to start Friday’s matchup against top-seed Notre Dame. The winner of the Hoos/Irish moves on to the ACC Tournament semifinals. ~ Photo courtesy of Scott Fitzgerald of Virginia Athletics Media Relations

At 11 a.m. EST on Friday (May 28), UVA baseball (28-22) faces top-seed Notre Dame (30-10) in ACC Tournament Pool Play. Redemption isn’t all that’s on the line for the Hoos as the winner moves on to the ACC Tournament semifinals.

“We’re excited for Notre Dame,” said Messinger, the winning pitcher in the 8-seed Cavaliers’ win over 12-seed Virginia Tech in Pool Play on Tuesday (May 25). “We knew this is exactly what we wanted. We wanted to play the best teams in this tournament. We want to show what we’re capable of, that we can win this whole thing. So, we’re going to be ready. We’re excited, and we’re really happy how it played out today.”

“I think that we were not playing our best baseball against Notre Dame (in the regular season matchup),” Messinger added. “We were going through a rough patch right there, and frankly I think we’re a completely different team than what we were. We’re pitching really well. Our offense has come around to be a scary offense one through nine. We’re excited. We’re very ready. Like I said, this is what we wanted, and I can’t wait for Friday morning.”

Freshman Kyle Teel echoed Messinger’s sentiments.

“We can’t wait,” Teel said of the rematch with the Irish. “Really excited when the schedule came out. We were pumped. We’re really excited to play them Friday.”

Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said: “Because we won [against Virginia Tech], everything rides on the game against Notre Dame for us to advance on to the semifinals. That’s the way you want it to be.”

“Our guys just love to compete and they look forward to the opportunity,” O’Connor added.

Andrew Abbott gets the start in Friday’s matchup. The All-ACC First Team lefty surrendered nine hits and six runs (four earned) his first time around against Notre Dame. According to Damon Dillman, Notre Dame will start All-ACC First Team lefthander John Michael Bertrand. UVA produced five hits and three runs against Bertrand in the regular season. Abbott and Bertrand enter tomorrow each having won their last four starts.

NCAA Tournament Projections

Virginia won six of its last seven in-conference series and 10 of its last 14 regular season games, including five of its last six, to finish .500 in the ACC and 27-22 overall heading into postseason play. This surge and the tournament win over the Hokies on Tuesday have the Hoos comfortably in the NCAA Tournament field according to D1Baseball.com and Baseball America.

Baseball America currently projects UVA as the 3-seed in the Starkville (MS) regional. Unlike last week, the publication does not have the Hoos in the “Last Four In” category.

D1Baseball.com placed Virginia as the 3-seed in the Eugene (OR) regional in its May 27 NCAA Tournament projection. D1Baseball.com does not have the Hoos as a “Last Five In” team.

Coach O’Connor was crystal clear on where he stands regarding his team’s NCAA Tournament worthiness.

“There is absolutely no question that our team deserves to be playing next weekend,” O’Connor said. “What we’ve done in this league in the back half is phenomenal. The NCAA talks a lot about being hot, and we’ve been as hot as you can be in this back half and we’ve earned that opportunity. A hundred percent. And I think everybody’s got to understand that there were decisions that were made that were out of our hands that is going to impact our RPI in this league, so there is many teams in this league that absolutely have an argument that, unfortunately for the players who wear the uniform, it was taken out of their hands with regards to the amount of games that we were allowed to play – which was 50 – and the fact that we played more conference games than anybody in the nation. Our RPIs, [all ACC coaches] knew when the season started that all of our RPIs would not compare to what some of the other leagues do. So, I believe the committee will do the right thing and understand that in a COVID year that this league was making the decisions that were in the best interest in the health and safety of the players and coaches to be on the field and play as much as possible. I hope that the teams in this league are not penalized for that situation. So, hundred percent. We’ve got a great club and we definitely deserve to be playing next weekend.”

More Virginia Baseball Notes

– Kyle Teel’s homerun accounted for two of UVA’s three runs in Tuesday’s victory over Tech. The talented true freshman has eight homers on the season, including three against the rival Hokies. UVA defeated Tech in all three games in which he homered.

“I know we got the big rivalry, but I would say I just try and do the same thing every time. That’s really all I can do,” Teel said. “I mean, I love hitting them against Virginia Tech. Don’t get me wrong.”

Of Tuesday’s homerun, Teel said: “I mean I was just really excited to be here, and the stadium was so awesome. It was a lot of fun playing here. I just try to do what I always do and hit the ball hard, and that’s what happened.”

On the recruiting front…

– UVA class of 2021 RHP recruit Shane Panzini will be a name to remember come 2021 MLB Draft time.

– Benedictine (Richmond, VA) defeated St. Christopher’s, 8-7, this past Saturday to capture the 2021 VISAA Division 1 state championship. The Cadets feature Virginia football/baseball recruit Jay Woolfolk, who struggled on the mound but came through with three hits, two steals and an RBI in the championship game. He accounted for two of Benedictine’s three runs – one on a solo homer – in the 3-2 state semifinal win over Miller School.

Woolfolk signed with Virginia football but plans to play both sports in Charlottesville. He is an outfielder/pitcher prospect for Coach O’Connor.

– Perfect Game USA updated its Class of 2024 High School Player Rankings last week, and Virginia baseball class of 2024 commit Aiden Harris (3B) comes in as the No. 4 prospect in the nation. The 6’3” rising sophomore committed to the Hoos last September. Click here for Harris’ Perfect Game profile.

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